Transforming Student Services with Salesforce at University of Michigan-Dearborn

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Entering college or university is a stressful and demanding time for a new student. Not only do you usually settle into a new environment and make new friends, but you also often have to navigate a maze of higher education bureaucracy. From enrolling in college to settling student finances and finding accommodation, it can be a daunting first step into adulthood.

This is even more difficult if the educational institution itself relies on manual processes and outdated systems to process student requests. This is the situation the University of Michigan-Dearborn found itself in, before deploying Salesforce CRM this year to solidify its view of “the student” and better understand student interactions.

Founded in 1959, the University of Michigan-Dearborn was created after a donation of just over 200 acres from the Ford Motor Company. Since then, it has grown into a comprehensive and leading regional public university – with nearly 10,000 students.

Carrie Shumaker, CIO at the university, was speaking at the recent Salesforce DreamTX virtual event, where she explained how Michigan-Dearborn is using Salesforce CRM to help both its digital and cultural transformation, where staff work differently as he sees it and gather new information about students.

The University began rolling out Salesforce case management in June last year, and followed it up with financial aid and admissions through the summer months. He is now preparing to bring student accounts online and preparing to launch a 24/7 chatbot. The goal is for every phone call, email, visit or chat to create a case that puts the student at the center and for issues to be resolved in a much faster timeframe. Shumaker said:

CRM puts the learner at the center. CRM is a data and workflow platform – you can think of it as an interaction platform, but it also offers a lot of opportunities for data and workflow. So you can create a single view of your customer, the student, from common data sources, and then make that view available for interaction and analysis for student services workers at your institution.

And at all times, it puts the student at the center, where we see how the student interacts with the institution.

Navigating through complexity

Shumaker said she and her team began by identifying the tasks to be accomplished across the University, which helped determine where to start the transformation project. This helped Michigan-Dearborn move from a tool-centric strategy, where they had a basket of different tools, to a client/student-centric strategy, focused on the student journey. She explained:

Taking a student from enrollment to graduation, making it easier for the student, which helps students succeed, is our primary goal as an institution. I think that’s important when we’re trying to figure out how to help a student remember first that we’re interacting with a human being.

Humans are very smart, in many ways, but they’re not so smart when we have to navigate through decisions that are new to us, or complex, or when we can’t immediately see the effects or reap the benefits. benefits of making a decision or a next step. And that perfectly describes higher education. We know what we want to achieve but we don’t always take the right steps and it’s not always clear or easy for us to know how to get there. It’s even more difficult for us when the chain is difficult to use or confusing.

Simply put, Michigan-Dearborn saw Salesforce as an opportunity to create more channels for students, simpler channels that allow for a personalized experience. The goal of CRM is to know for each student what to do next and how to communicate with them, remembering every step taken so far and recording that journey.

When you think of student services – for example registration, financial aid, student accounts – there are a lot of jobs involved and those jobs are essential. Students are going to have questions and issues, and Shumaker recognizes that every point of contact with a student is an opportunity to “frustrate them or delight them.” She added:

And certainly one way to delight students is to reduce barriers or what I consider friction in their academic business dealings.

So, the CRM can help you by offering multiple channels to ask questions – for example phone, email, web form, chat, as well as appointment. And in the future a chat bot. This means we can ensure that we are providing them with high quality, accurate information. And we can also analyze question types and see what’s being asked and how we can make that process less confusing – so, a feedback loop. Is there a better way we should give information to students? Is there more information we need to put on the website? Or in a different format to distribute to them?

Prior to this, the University had no record of these interactions with students, other than perhaps email, so the opportunity to change the student experience and the way staff work at the University is important. Shumaker said:

We had no recollection of their visit or of what we had told them. So if a student called one day about a scholarship and then called back the next day, there would be no record of that contact and there would be no follow-up to ensure the issues that required research more in-depth were finally resolved. So we had no idea how many students had problems.

And after?

The University is now looking to integrate advisors into the platform, as well as creating a portal for better communication with students and better organized information. He hopes that all this data will improve communication with students. Shumaker said:

In the future, we will be able to analyze the volume continuously and assess what generates more questions and answer them before they even start. So after enabling that as well, we also enabled Salesforce Live Chat as another channel for people to talk with graduate and undergraduate admissions and ask questions.

Live chat gives students instant synchronous responses without picking up a phone. Live chat really relies on case management. We needed case management as a base layer because we wanted to save conversations as cases and link them to a student, and we also needed a way to save cases through a web form after hours when the chat operator is not available. Or if the chat operator obviously can’t answer the question, we need to save it and send it to someone who can.

This live chat tool is now also being used as a means of developing the University’s future chatbot, which Shumaker hopes will provide a first line of inquiry around the clock and be able to answer student questions, save them in cases, all without being human. operator necessarily addressing the student.